Speaking at the announcement of his new cabinet last Sunday (25 May 2014), President Jacob Zuma revealed the creation of the new Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services. This new Ministry will be separate from the existing Ministry of Communications, with each covering different portfolios.
The new Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Service will he headed by Siyabonga Cwele who is the former minister of state security. The new Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services is Hlengiwe Mkhize, who was previously the deputy minister of economic development.
Zuma said that the aim of this new ministry is to get more value out of the booming information and telecommunication industry and the postal services sector.
The Department of Communications on the other hand will deal specifically with government communication and will be headed up by Faith Muthambi.
The new department of communications will be responsible for “overarching communication policy and strategy, information dissemination and publicity, as well as the branding of the country abroad,” according to Zuma.
Their portfolio will cover the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Government Communication and Information Systems, Brand SA, and the Media Development and Diversity Agency.
The announcement of the new ministry has met with mixed reviews. While some say it is a good step which shows that the government is focusing on telecommunications as a priority, there is worry that the bureaucracy of setting up an entire department will bog the system down and delay action in an area where South Africa is already behind where it should be.
Many telecoms industry experts are also puzzled by the removal of former communications minister Yunus Carrim from his position as head of the Department of Communications (DOC). Carrim had expressed his own opinion that his term might well be limited only to the period between his appointment and the 2014 national elections.
It is the opinion of many industry professionals who said that Sunday 25 May 2014 was “a sad day indeed”. This was when President Zuma announced new, fragmented ICT ministries that included a telecoms and postal department and a “new DOC” that will seemingly act as a policy, strategy and publicity body.
Telecoms experts feel that these changes work against what was perceived as a period when things starting falling into place in the South African ICT sector, with a positive Carrim having started a fire under the DOC, bringing hope of some swift results from that department.
Whilst Carrim has accepted his fate, many experienced ICT pundits and leaders are not so sure about these developments.